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Porting activities at record low 23 months after SIM card ban

Porting activities at record low 23 months after SIM card ban

Porting activities among telecommunication subscribers have struggled to surpass 4,000 since the industry faced a five months national ban on SIM card registration.

Subscribers porting from one network to another sharply dropped to 4,085 in December 2020 from the 16,342 recorded in the previous month. It was the highest decline the industry has seen at the time and was a result of the announcement in November by the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy that it was imposing a ban on SIM registration as part of measures to ensure more Nigerians are captured in the National Identity Number (NIN) registration exercise.

The SIM card ban took effect in January 2020 and was lifted in May 2020, a period in which no porting activity was recorded for the first time since 2013.

Number porting is the process of taking an existing phone number and transferring it to another provider. It involves two methods including local number porting and full mobile number porting. Local number porting relates to number porting that relates to fixed lines. Full mobile number porting refers to the process of changing the mobile number to a different service provider, upgrading the existing service, or moving the number to a different location entirely.

The NCC calculates the porting activities for Incoming and outgoing subscribers. Incoming porting means the number of numbers that are ported from another service provider’s network into a service provider’s own network. Outgoing means the number of numbers that are ported to another service provider’s network from a service provider’s own network.

According to Ajibola Olude, chief operating officer of the Association of Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ATCON), there are many reasons many people would want to port from one network to another network. For example, subscribers can port because of prices. A network that decides to lower the cost of its data bundle and has a relatively stable service is most likely to attract subscribers from rival networks. People also port because of poor coverage. MTN which has the largest network has and continues to earn more porting subscribers than other networks due to its capacity. The telco, for instance, accounts for almost half of the porting activities from May 2021 to November 2022.

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Subscribers can also port to another network where their friends and families are. For example, if subscriber A is on the Globacom network and is married to subscriber B who is on the Airtel network, the tendency for either of the partners to port to one network is high. Olude says porting often helps the subscribers enjoy reduced costs because calling within the same network is much lower than calling outside the network.

Porting can also happen because a network repositioned its customer service causing subscribers to take notice and tell their friends about it. Networks that are also intentional about upgrading their infrastructure also attract subscribers from other networks.

The number porting data compiled by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) shows that over the years, porting activities have often seen an upward and downward movement. However, until December 2020, it has never declined below 5,000 since May 2013 when the NCC started releasing the data. It then suffered a further decline in the months after the SIM card ban and has since not recovered. Instead of recovering, porting activities hit the lowest ever in a month at 1,357 in April 2022. 2021 saw the lowest decline with a total of 14,947 porting activities, followed by 2022 which has seen 27,662 activities in the eleven months recorded so far by the NCC.

There are different reasons the interest of subscribers in porting from one network to another is waning. One of them is persistent poor network quality. A lot of the subscribers that ported in the past to mobile network operators they considered better than where they originally were, are not impressed and they are not keeping quiet about it.

Many subscribers also consider the porting process too tedious.

“Too many things tied to the number, porting is very problematic in Nigeria also. So, not making the changes anytime soon,” said Taiwo Orilogbon, a blockchain engineer.

However, telcos like MTN say it only takes NIN and the phone number to complete the process at any of the service centres.

“Please note that your Virtual NIN is a compulsory requirement for the porting process.

The virtual NIN can be generated via the NIMC mobile app or by dialing *346*3*11-Digit-NIN*109071#

A service charge of N20 applies upon dialing the USSD code,” noted MTN service centre. The MNO also insists that the porting process is free.

There is also a positive side to decline in porting, says Ajibola Olude.

“It could be due to the fact that the MNO that is losing subscribers might have upped their game in order to retain their subscribers or those who have actually ported do not see much difference between porting,” Olude said.